Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Love ... Exchange & Generation (1968) 2 in 1

The Love Exchange 

The Love Exchange were a typical support-level Los Angeles band of the psychedelic era, right down to their name. Their chief claim to fame is their 1967 single "Swallow the Sun," a nice folk-rock-psychedelic tune that's emblematic of the time with its trippily optimistic lyrics, garage-like Mamas & the Papas female-male harmonies, and swirling organ. The record was anthologized on the Los Angeles portion of the Highs in the Mid Sixties series, and also on the folk-rock volume of the vinyl Nuggets series on Rhino in the '80s. They also managed to put out an LP in 1968 that, in addition to featuring "Swallow the Sun," had an assortment of psych-folk-pop crossover efforts; "Swallow the Sun," incidentally, is a cover of song by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, "Dark on You Now," with some different lyrics.

The Love Exchange grew out of some teenage surf and garage bands in the Los Angeles suburb of Westchester. It was teenage singer Bonnie Blunt who was the group's strongest asset, giving them the competent vocals in the soaring, folky Mamas & the Papas/early Jefferson Airplane style. (As an interesting trivial note, the first woman singer in The Love Exchange was Laura Hale, daughter of actor Alan Hale, famous as the skipper on Gilligan's Island.) They weren't accomplished writers, though, and on their sole album, much of the material was penned by producer Larry Goldberg. These were garage-psych-folk-rock efforts with their utopian, rose-colored lyrics and organ-modal-guitar combinations, like a minor league Peanut Butter Conspiracy. The aura of psychsploitation was enhanced when Goldberg took some of the LP's backing tracks and added vocals by non-group members to create a Christian rock album credited to the Crusaders. Some of the album's songs were also used on a soundtrack album for a musical titled How Now, Dow Jones, credited there to the Floor Traders. And, finally, the songs did come out in their original form on an LP actually billed as a Love Exchange record, as it should have been all along.

None of this helped The Love Exchange gain much credibility, although they played often in Los Angeles and at some festivals. In keeping with their general lack of consistent packaging, their name was changed to Charity in the late '60s for an album on Uni, although as it ended up, organist Walter Flannery was the only member who performed on that LP. They were still performing as The Love Exchange live at that point, but broke up after appearing at the Newport '69 Pop Festival in Southern California.

Bass – Mike Joyce 
Drums – Jeff Barnett
Engineer – Leo De Gar Kulka
Guitar [6-string] – Fred Barnett
Organ – Walter Flannery
Producer – Larry Goldberg
Supervised By [Production Supervision] – Albert E. Van Court Jr.
Twelve-String Guitar – Dan Altchuler
Vocals, Tambourine – Bonnie Blunt

The Love Exchange - The Love Exchange  1968

The Love Exchange's only album is an obscure also-ran psychedelic effort, though it's not poor. "Swallow the Sun," their most familiar tune due to its appearance on some '60s anthologies, is the standout on this assortment of rudimentary trippy garage-psych explorations. The minor-key yet poppy melodic progressions, leaning on snaky guitar lines and organ, are typical of much 1966-1968 California hippie rock. The tunes, however (often written by producer Larry Goldberg), are derivative and the lyrics self-conscious in their incense-tuous air. The production sometimes verges on the hasty and crude; Bonnie Blunt's voice, usually the focal point, is deserving of better material and arrangements. The folk-rock quotient comes to the fore on two of the better tunes, the appropriately melancholy and ghostly "Ballad of a Sad Man" (written by bassist Mike Joyce) and "Nothing at All," on which Blunt cedes the lead vocal position to one of the guys. The latter song, in fact, has a garage folk-rock air (and unrefined production) that leads one to suspect that it may have been cut earlier than most or all of the other tracks on the record. The 2001 Sundazed reissue has three previously unissued cuts (including a couple of awful quasi-showtune ditties) and three alternate takes of songs from the LP.
The Love Generation

Of the many sunshine pop groups that proliferated in Southern California in the late '60s, the Love Generation were one of the most wholesome and downright sunniest. "Sunniest" is not necessarily synonymous with "best," even for a genre called "sunshine pop." the Love Generation's records were about as over-the-top as their name in their smiley-face, see-no-evil, upbeat, even anodyne harmonized pop/rock, commercial enough to often be mistaken for commercial jingles. Taking the advances of sunshine pop godfathers and godmothers the Mamas & the Papas to the most saccharine extremes (with echoes of the Beach Boys and the Association as well), the Love Generation released three albums in 1967 and 1968, getting small hit singles with "Groovy Summertime" and "Montage From How Sweet It Is (I Knew That You Knew)." the Love Generation were not quite as faceless as some acts plundering this territory, though, as much of their material was written by brothers John Bahler and Tom Bahler. The arrangements were densely crafted blends of male-female vocal harmonies and orchestrated pop/rock that put quite a bit of frosting on the incessantly chipper tunes.

At its outset, the group was a sextet of the Bahler Brothers, ex-New Christy Minstrels member Ann White, Marilyn Miller (who had supplied Sally Field's singing voice on the Gidget TV show), Mitch Gordon, and Jim Wasson. John Bahler took the greatest share of the lead vocals, and session musicians played the instruments. The lyrics often tapped into the most optimistic and innocuous traits of the early hippie generation, with references to love-ins, sunshine (naturally), summer, dreams, candy, and magic peppering not just the words but the song titles: "Fluffy Rain," "Meet Me at the Love-In," "Consciousness Expansion," "Love and Sunshine," "Candy," "Magic Land," and "Love Is a Rainy Sunday" were just some of them.

Montage The group really existed in name only by the third and last album, Montage, on which only the Bahlers and producer/arranger Tommy Oliver were listed in the liner notes. Gordon, White, and the Bahlers all sang as studio backup vocalists in subsequent years, with Tom Bahler writing songs for others including Cher ("Living in a House Divided") and Michael Jackson ("She's Out of My Life"), as well as co-writing "We Are the World." The Bahlers might be most famous/notorious, though, for recording and supplying several songs used in early episodes of The Partridge Family, several of them appearing (with the Bahlers' lead vocals) on the Partridge Family's first album.

The Love Generation - A Generation Of Love 1968 


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